Pinochet Ruling: 'A Bad Day for World Dictators' Global Reaction
Andrew Buncombe and Steve Crawshaw, The Independent (London, England)
OUTSIDE THE Grovelands Priory Hospital in north London the campaigners had been singing their protest songs all morning, but shortly after 2pm they fell silent. Seventy or more heads all pushed towards the live broadcast from a hand-held radio as the five law lords gave their decision.
In the centre of the scrum Manuel Rivas-Taquias, whose uncle was murdered and whose mother was imprisoned by the Pinochet regime, had the radio pushed to his ear. Suddenly he gave a huge smile and the crowd erupted.
It was a fair bet that the former dictator, behind the walls of the private hospital where he has been treated for the past few weeks, heard the noise. "There will be celebrations around the world tonight," said Gloria Smith, another Chilean protester. In part, she was right. From Santiago in Chile to Madrid's Plaza del Sol, opponents of the former dictator celebrated Britain's decision to uphold what they considered was natural justice. In Spain, Isabel Allende, daughter of the democratic Chilean president ousted by General Pinochet in 1973, said it had been a "marvellous" decision. Around her the crowds scornfully chanted "Happy Birthday, General!" (He was 83 yesterday.) In France, MPs applauded, and the Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, said: "This is a surprise, a joy, bad news for dictators." The Swiss said they would be continuing their request for General Pinochet's extradition. In Chile itself there was a celebration at the Santiago-based headquarters of the Association of Families of the Disappeared. Women hugged and wept as they released thousands of white balloons to commemorate the victims. One of the group's leaders, Viviana Diaz, said: "We feel our missing family members in our hearts. We believe justice has started for them. Today was an important step, a triumph for human rights. It tells heads of state they can not kill or torture." But celebration was not the only story. With a passion equal to that of his opponents, supporters of General Pinochet, including Baroness Thatcher, said Britain was wrong. "The senator is old, frail and sick, and on compassionate grounds alone should be allowed to return to Chile," she said. In Santiago the British and Spanish embassies stepped up security against crowds of Pinochetistas, who attacked journalists outside the Pinochet Foundation. They also threatened to march on the villa used by the British ambassador, Glynne Evans, in Las Condes district, although she and her staff are believed to have moved to a safer location. General Pinochet's son, also called Augusto, said the decision was a "cruel and sadistic blow that goes beyond the rights of Mankind". …